FORT BRAGG: Sinclair to pay $24k, receives no other punishment - WNCN: News, Weather

Sinclair to pay $24k, receives no other punishment

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Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair was charged in 2012 with criminal counts that include twice physically forcing a woman to perform oral sex. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair was charged in 2012 with criminal counts that include twice physically forcing a woman to perform oral sex.
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -

An Army general who admitted breaking military law during improper relationships with three subordinates will pay a $24,000 fine but will not lose his rank or be dismissed from the Army, a court ruled Thursday.

In closing arguments, prosecutors argued that Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair should be thrown out of the Army and lose his military benefits, while the defense said that would harm his innocent wife and children the most. The two sides also offered contrasting arguments about the seriousness of the misdeeds that felled the former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne. 

On Thursday, the court ordered that Sinclair must pay $5,000 a month for four months and pay restitution of $4,100 for credit card fraud. Sinclair did not lose rank and will not be dismissed from the Army.

However, when he seeks retirement, it's up to the administrative system to determine his retirement rank.

Sinclair smiled and hugged his lawyers after the decision.

As he left he courtroom, he said, "The system worked. I've always been proud of my Army. All I want to do now is go north and hug my kids and my wife."

His attorney said he plans to retire.

The attorney for the accuser, Jamie Barnett, called the decision "beyond disappointing."

"It's no secret that the treatment of service members who have been sexually abused and assaulted has been a very serious problem in the military, and challenges remain as we saw today," Barnett said. "Clearly, the Army judge does not understand the nature of cruelty, maltreatment of subordinates and sexual abuse by a superior in command.  This sentence can only be interpreted as the Army viewing what General Sinclair did as just not that bad."

Retired Lt. Col. Gary D. Solis, who teaches law at West Point and Georgetown University, called Pohl's ruling lenient.
    
"I can't believe it," Solis, who served 26 years of active duty in the Marine Corps and tried hundreds of cases as a military judge, told The Associated Press. "I know Judge Pohl to be one of the best judges in the Army judicial system, but ... this is an individual who should not be a general officer. He should have gone to jail and dismissed from the Army."
    
Sinclair will now go before Fort Bragg commander Maj. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn, who approved Sinclair's plea deal, and he'll get either a verbal or written reprimand. Then he'll appear before a board to determine whether he will lose any rank, which could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits.

The defense had called a host of character witnesses this week to laud Sinclair as a selfless leader in hopes of getting a lenient punishment.

Sinclair's sentencing comes as the military and Congress grapple with sex crimes in the ranks.

Prosecutors did not ask the judge to send Sinclair to jail, even though the maximum penalty he faces on the charges to which he pleaded guilty is more than 20 years.

The general admitted he mistreated a captain under his command during a three-year affair and had improper relationships with two other women. He also pleaded guilty to adultery - a crime in the military - as well as using his government-issued credit card to pay for trips to see his mistress and other conduct unbecoming an officer.

The 51-year-old general had been accused of twice forcing the female captain to perform oral sex during the three-year affair, but the sexual assault charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.

The Army's case against Sinclair started to crumble as questions arose about his primary accuser's credibility and whether military officials improperly rejected a previous plea deal because of political concerns.

A military lawyer representing Sinclair argued that his wife, Rebecca, had made a significant investment in the Army herself by holding leadership positions in organizations that helped soldiers' families. Maj. Sean Foster said Rebecca Sinclair and the couple's two sons would be hurt the most if the general lost benefits.

"These three are the only truly innocent people in this case," he said.

Even if Sinclair were allowed to retire and be demoted by two ranks, the defense calculated that he would still lose $831,000 in retirement benefits by age 82. And no matter what, Sinclair will be paying a hefty price with his lost career and ruined reputation.

"That is a life sentence in itself," Foster said.

Sinclair broke down in tears multiple times during Wednesday's hearing.

When a letter from his wife was read aloud, Sinclair buried his head in his hands, appeared to cry and dabbed his eyes with two tissues.

In the letter, Rebecca Sinclair said she hasn't fully forgiven her husband but doesn't want the Army to punish him and his family further with a significant reduction to his pension and other benefits. 

"Believe me when I tell you that the public humiliation and vilification he has endured are nothing compared to the private suffering and guilt that he lives with every day," wrote Rebecca Sinclair, who hasn't attended her husband's hearings.

Jeffrey Sinclair broke down at several points as he read a statement to the judge, pausing to collect himself. He apologized to his family and the women with whom he admitted inappropriate relationships.

"I've been frustrated and angry, but I don't have to look any further than the mirror for someone to blame," he said, noting the hearing came exactly two years after the captain came forward with allegations on March 19, 2012.

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